Motion asks Metro to implement a number of several tech initiatives

In July of last year, Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti and Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont Walker authored a motion asking Metro staff to report back on several technology matters, including ticketing-by-smart phone, wi-fi access at Metro facilities and the possibility of creating an internet-based customer help desk.

Metro staff responded with the following report, which includes the original motion that shows some of the tech efforts underway — including the ability to add to a TAP card by smart phone — and others that are on the radar but need more work and/or funding [pdf here]:

In response, Garcetti and Supervisor and Metro Board Member Don Knabe have submitted a new motion asking staff to go :

One note: To see a list of some third-party apps that have been developed using Metro scheduling data, please click here and then click on the “third party apps” tab. Metro also has some mobile tools available, detailed at the same link.

As for wi-fi on the Gold Line, that was an effort originally pursued several years ago by the Community Redevelopment Agency. After the CRA was legislated out of existence, the project never moved forward.

U.S. Highway Trust Fund headed into the red within months

HTF-Cash-Flow-Summary-Through-2-28-14-Monthly-Ending-Balances-Chart

Below is the latest from Metro’s government relations staff on efforts to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund from going into the red; the fund supports road projects and mass transit across the United States. This has been a problem for many years but no solution seems imminent, particularly in an election year.

USDOT Report – Federal Highway Trust Fund Faces Imminent Shortfall

Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released their latest projection on the solvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund. According to the USDOT, the federal Highway Trust Fund will encounter a shortfall before the end of Fiscal Year 2014.

The main reason the fund has not encountered a shortfall thus far is because MAP-21, the surface transportation bill adopted by Congress in 2012, authorized the transfer of $9.7 billion from the general fund to the federal Highway Trust Fund.

Congress is currently considering a number of options to address the looming shortfall.

Earlier this year, our Board adopted a support position for H.R. 3636 (Blumenauer) that would keep the federal Highway Trust Fund solvent by increasing the federal gas tax by 15 cents over three years and thereafter indexing the gas tax for inflation. For a link to the USDOT report on the federal Highway Trust Fund’s finances, please click here.

Video and new staff report on combating fare evasion on the Orange Line

Above is a brief and concise reminder from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to remember to tap your TAP card at the validator at Metro Rail and Orange Line stations. Even if a valid fare is loaded. If you don’t and you’re caught, you’ll likely receive a citation, usually for $75

Hey, let’s do the math on this!!!

Citation = $75

Fare = $1.50

$75 minus $1.50 = $73.50

Paying $73.50 more than you need to ride the bus…perhaps not the wisest investment you could make :)

UPDATE: A reader wisely suggested we include some information on why Metro requires riders to TAP. The reason: it prevents abuse of TAP cards, namely from people who load cash or passes on their cars but never actually use the cards — meaning they’re riding for free.

Below is the latest Metro staff report on the issue of increasing fare enforcement along the Orange Line, where two audits on two days this past December found fare evasion rates of 22 percent and 16 percent, respectively. A number of options are listed, including installation of gates, creating ‘virtual’ gates with arrays of TAP validators, more signage and even video surveillance.

Mayor Garcetti’s news release on $200 million in federal funding in next year’s budget for Metro projects

Here’s a news release from the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on the good news in President Obama’s recently-announced budget for the next fiscal year:

GARCETTI ANNOUNCES FEDERAL FUNDING IN PRESIDENT’S BUDGET; URGES CONGRESS TO PASS MULTI-YEAR FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION BILL

LOS ANGELES–Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today that President Obama’s FY 14-15 budget contains $200 million for critical Los Angeles transportation projects — $100 million each for the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension. He also urged Congress to take immediate action to pass a multi-year Federal surface transportation bill.

“Especially in these tough economic times, you have to prove to Washington that you’re going to deliver real results,” Mayor Garcetti said. “This funding represents the White House’s recognition that our transit program will spend money wisely, create thousands of jobs, and make a real difference for L.A. commuters. Now, it’s time for Congress to act and pass a multi-year Federal surface transportation bill.”

The President’s proposed budget funding follows Los Angeles’ recent win of a $670 million Federal New Starts Full Funding Agreement Grant for the Downtown Regional Connector, which brings together the city’s various rail lines to make transfers convenient, dramatically improving the rider experience.

The Westside Subway Extension project will extend the subway from the current Wilshire and Western station terminus 3.9 miles to Wilshire and La Cienega. The subway project will create 25,000 jobs.

 

The funding in the budget is from the federal New Starts program, which helps local transit agencies pay for expensive transit projects. The deal for Regional Connector funding from New Starts was finalized last month and the agreement for the Purple Line Extension should be soon completed. New Starts money is awarded by the government over several years, thus the $100 million in next year’s budget for each of the projects.

Reminder: Fare changes hearing is Saturday, March 29, at 9:30 a.m. at Metro HQ

As many of surely know, Metro is proposing to increase fares while eliminating the need to pay to transfer on Metro. The above document from Metro describes the changes and the need for them.

The changes are pages 14 and 15 of the above document or can be seen on the section of metro.net devoted to explaining the proposed changes.

A public hearing on the fare increases will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, at Metro headquarters adjacent to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. If you would like to speak at the public hearing, sign-up forms will be accepted until 11:30 a.m.

Members of the public can also mail comments on the fare changes to:

Metro, One Gateway Plaza, MS 99-3-1, Los Angeles, CA 90012, Attn: Michele Jackson

All comments must be postmarked by March 29, 2014.

Email your comments to publichearing@metro.net.

This pdf also explains the changes and the upcoming hearing:

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

Fare2

L.A. City Council votes to limit e-cigarette use in public spaces

Earlier today, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban the use of e-cigarettes in bars, nightclubs, restaurants and other public places where conventional smoking is prohibited. This means – whether you agree with the ban or not – “vaping” or use of electronic smoking devices would also be prohibited on Metro.

There’s a lot of back and forth on whether second-hand vapor is harmful to others, and if so, to what degree. Personally, I’m not a fan of e-cigarettes — just because you’re not breathing out smoke doesn’t mean you’re not blowing smells at me. (And Metro’s Code of Conduct also has a section on odors.)

If signed into law by Mayor Eric Garcetti, the measure would take effect in 30 days. In the meantime, vaping is not encouraged on board Metro or inside Metro stations. You may not be cited by LASD (or you might if the odor is strong enough) but at a minimum you will be asked to be mindful of the other passengers around you and kindly asked to stop. j

Graphic: New Starts funding for Metro over the years — and finally on the rise again!

New Starts Appropriations Graph

The above graphic is certainly worth a look. It shows the amount of federal New Starts money received by Metro on an annual basis since 1993. New Starts is a federal program that helps local transit agencies pay for big, expensive projects and most of the money shown above went to the existing Red/Purple Line subway and the Eastside Gold Line.

The graphic is also missing a critical piece of good news. President Obama’s proposed transportation budget for fiscal year 2015 (which begins Oct. 1, 2014), which was announced today, includes $100 million for the Regional Connector and $100 million for the Purple Line Extension. If the budget is approved by Congress, the $200 million in New Starts money for Metro would be the most received in any given year.

The $100 million for the Regional Connector is part of the eventual $670 million in New Starts money that the project will receive. That was the big news a couple of weeks ago when Metro and the U.S. Department of Transportation finalized the New Starts deal. A similar deal for $1.25 billion in funding for the Purple Line Extension project should also be completed soon. Both projects are also drawing on funds from Measure R, the local sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

Stepping back, let’s look at the big picture. The Connector and Purple Line Extension also plan to use federally-backed TIFIA loans that will help Metro get lower interest rates than if they borrowed money for construction at market rates. That’s significant because it shows the degree to which the federal government under President Obama is getting involved in helping local areas build transit. It may not all be grant money — i.e. money Metro doesn’t have to pay back — but the loans still help Metro take on less debt and thus spend less on already pricey projects.

The loans are part of Metro’s America Fast Forward [AFF] proposal that has found its way into President Obama’s proposal for a multi-year transportation funding bill. AFF would expand the loan program and also create federally-subsidized bonds that local agencies could use when building projects. And that’s what I want readers to understand: the loans, the bonds, the New Starts money and Measure R combined — that’s the big kahuna here, folks. Those four things together give Metro the resources to build the expanded transit network many readers here want.

Finally, and on a very related note, I wanted to pass along a thank you from Metro officials to President Obama and Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein for helping Metro secure the federal funds and advocating for expanded transit funding in Los Angeles and other cities across the nation.